"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts.... But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2Cor 4:6-7)
A jar of clay? A pot. An image of earthly humanity. And at my age, my "pot" has been used and beat around. Which makes me what? A cracked old pot, not so much containing God's glory as helplessly hoping that's what will shine through and ooze out in a way that blesses my world.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Self Care? Or self-indulgence?
Curt is away again. When I am alone, it doesn’t seem worth it to cook a meal or prepare a table. But I still get hungry. So easy, in the press of getting other things done, to grab a few cookies and get on with it. And when hungry again, to grab some more.
Self-care has been on my mind. Mostly because I don't always do a good job of it. Out of shape and undisciplined in habits of rest and food, I begin to see that I am much better at self-indulgence.
It stands to reason. I come from the most self-indulgent people-group. Americans don’t just heat or cool the room, we heat and cool the whole house. Our houses are loaded with closet space and garages so that we can put away all that stuff we don’t need. More and more homes have cavernous garages to hold the extra cars. There are drive-through windows on every corner for burgers, tacos, and fancy coffees, and our cars are designed with multiple cup-holders so that we needn’t interrupt our eating and drinking when we drive to work or to the shop or to our fitness trainer. I think I’ll stop here and return to my point.
Self-indulgence turns on desire, sensual gratification, and gaining the attentions of others as we compete for reputation, power, influence, and status. Luxuries become needs. For believers, Kingdom-building (the furthering of God’s priorities on earth) becomes small-k kingdom-building as we position ourselves as lords and ladies of personal little fiefdoms of “ministry” or “family.” Hospitality becomes entertaining, or maybe even networking. Beauty becomes display.
Self-indulgence is often lazy, wanting the quick and easy way or instant gratification.
Self-indulgence rarely notices the unseen, the presence and goodness of God, of the Lord Jesus in our midst.
Self-care, in contrast, is a form of stewardship of body and soul as gifts and resources. Self-care measures what is needed to be strong for the task and emotionally poised for equanimity and outward-focused compassion. Self-care exercises patience with the limitations of body, time, or circumstances. It nourishes and equips towards worship and service.
Self-care, it dawns on me, is another matter entirely.
Yet the competing voices of world and flesh so easily draw us to confuse the two. “You deserve a break.” “Me-time.” “Retail therapy.” Many of our real-life actions may be one or the other, self-care or self-indulgence, depending on those oh-so-murky realms of motive and attitude. Is my “need” for time alone avoidance and escapism, withdrawal from compassion in favor of ivory-tower living? Or is it vital to renew and equip me to return to the fray with the stamina and empathy I need to serve others? Is a bigger house filled with lovely things a form of hoarding and prestige, or a reflection of the rest and beauty of heaven freely offered to whatever weary souls God may bring?
When I rise before dawn and prepare coffee, candles and incense, do I do it simply to indulge my senses and my habit, or do I make these actions in conscious preparation for worship in Your Presence, Lord?
For these days alone, I explore a new discipline of mindfulness towards meals and my body. In place of that handful of whatever eaten over the sink, I rise from early prayer to prepare soft-boiled egg, and home-made bread with the olive oil from my trees. I squeeze the juice from a couple of oranges, and put a slice of the lemon from my garden in a cup of hot water. I make a plate, grab a cloth napkin, and light a candle. And as I do these simple things, I rejoice in the miracle of chicken and tree, yeast and oven. I lift my eyes from the food to the Giver of the food, the sheltered space, and the time to prepare it. I am nourished and filled.